During the fall of 2017, Allan Reeve and I have been the consultants for Living Waters Presbytery to begin developing a culture of congregational collaboration through “clusters and networks.” In less than one year, Presbyteries and Conferences in the United Church of Canada will be replaced by Regions. The mandate of the Regions will NOT include helping congregations and local ministries work collaboratively. That will be up to local churches and members.
The Clustering and Networking Project was initiated by Living Waters Presbytery to help local churches prepare for this change. Over the coming year Allan and I will help Living Waters presbytery continue to build a capacity to collaborate more effectively by developing practices for congregations and other ministries to create Clusters and Networks.
Below is an article by the chair of Living Waters reporting on the progress of this project so far.
WHAT CAN WE DO TOGETHER THAT WE CAN’T DO ALONE?
By Terry Davies
With the remits moving us toward a three-council model in The United Church of Canada, how can we ensure that local communities of faith will receive the support currently provided at the presbytery level? With this question in mind, Living Waters Presbytery convened a series of four gatherings last fall, recognizing that we can accomplish more together than working on our own. Over 200 people from 36 congregations attended the sessions, held at various churches.
As we gathered, we asked how we can work within the proposed creation of Clusters and Networks. These are intended to provide opportunities for support and collaboration at the local level once presbyteries no longer exist. According to the Executive of the General Council, Clusters will “provide community and support for communities of faith and their leaders, and focus on worship, mission, learning, collegiality, and strategic planning” while Networks will “link people working on specific issues or for project work.”
Rather than operate with a predetermined plan for Clusters and Networks, we met with the intention of allowing an organic direction to emerge through dialogue. A few insights became clear in the course of our meetings:
- There is an appetite among some congregations to work more closely together.
- There are causes and concerns that people are ready to champion to create opportunities for further conversation.
- While there is a preference for face-to-face meetings, the future of the United Church will require both the capability and willingness to communicate through new technology.
Staff Minister Karen Hilfman Millson notes, “in these times of transition we need to be adaptable; we need to be willing to let go of how we have done things to make space for what is longing to emerge among us; we need to follow the flow of Spirit’s inspiration to discover what might be possible.”
This winter a variety of follow-up gatherings and conversations are being held. We are developing and supporting groups of people who are willing to take the next steps to connect in order to build relationships and to explore ways of working together. There is an openness and excitement as we embark upon this task.